Stallworth pled guilty to second-degree manslaughter and did 30 days in the pokey. It probably helped his cause that he took complete responsibility for the accident, admitted culpability and seemed sincerely remorseful.
Even now that he's back in the league, he's still talking about his crime. In a statement released by the team, he had this to say:
“There was a time I felt the mistake I made was the end of the world for me,” Stallworth said in a statement. “I will never get that morning back. It weighs on me every day and will for the rest of my life. What I can do is move forward, try to be a better person, try to convince others not to do what I did and warn others about the dangers of drinking and driving. I have to show otherwise that what happened doesn’t reflect who I am.
“I have to prove that, and, hopefully, I’m on my way to doing that. I know my apology will never be strong enough for some, but I’ve made changes, and I’m trying to be a positive influence. It’s an honor and privilege to play in the NFL, and I’m so thankful for this opportunity.”
Now, I don't want to paint the guy as a hero just because he's taking responsibility for the terrible, terrible crime he committed.
It seems so rare, though, that someone in the public eye can commit a crime like that, and then be so open, honest and remorseful about it. The standard celebrity playbook in similar situations seems to be to refuse to talk about it, and hope people just forget about it over time. I respect that Stallworth isn't taking the easy way out like that.
As for his on-the-field impact, it'll be interesting to see. Once upon a time, Stallworth looked like an excellent second receiver, but he's 30 years old now, and he hasn't been a major part of an offense since 2005. The odds seem to be against a man in that situation, but if the speed is still there, who knows? He doesn't have a lot of mileage on him, and plenty of receivers have been productive into their 30s before.
Regardless of whether or not Derrick Mason(notes) returns for another year with the Ravens, they could definitely use the '05/'06 version of Stallworth or a reasonable facsimile. Whether or not that still exists, we'll have to wait and see.